Feeding the Future

Livestock feed talk sparks enthusiastic debate at farmers club monday evening lecture

An audience with questions aplenty made for a stimulating debate as the second Farmers Club Monday Evening Lecture took place on Monday 13th April 2015, with Graeme Smith, UK General Manager of feed ingredients firm Alltech, speaking on the theme Feeding farm animals – 2025. 

His wide-ranging presentation followed the very successful launch of the Farmers Club Monday Evening Lecture series in January when Liz Philip, Principal of Askham Bryan and Newton Rigg Colleges, tackled the topic: Is Agricultural Education Delivering?

Mr Smith argued that today’s inadequate nutrition and inferior livestock management was holding back farm animal productivity.

“Look at the world record milk output – 32,804 litres in a year from Canadian Holstein Ever-Green-View in Canada in 2010. If she can do it, why can’t UK cows get much closer to that than the average of 8-9,000 litres/year.” 

Nutrigenomics could make all the difference, he argued. By adding small quantities of specially produced micro-ingredients far greater feed conversion efficiencies could be released.

In Kentucky, USA, Alltech’s Nutrigenomics Centre uses ‘gene-chips’ to analyse the cell-level responses of livestock blood or tissue samples to different feed micro-ingredients, so identify which metabolic processes are stimulated and which are suppressed. Exploiting that information to fine-tune feed supplements was the key to boosting output, he explained.

Meeting consumer needs for functional foods was also a goal. Factory-grown algae rich in DHA was now being fed to livestock to produce high DHA milk and eggs, and trials were underway to see if the same could be done for UK cheese, he noted.

Environmental benefits could accrue too, with improved nutrition, and better management, helping to drive down greenhouse gas emissions, he explained.

“It is almost impossible to exaggerate the pace of growth and change in animal feed,” says 2015 Club Chairman, Anne Chamberlain. “I wished to include a lecture that revealed some of the exciting innovations in feed technology and research, such as nutrigenomics and cultivation of algae; and which also reflected the international nature of the sector and the issues it has to address – from sustainability and social impact, through competition for land from direct food crops and energy crops, to food chain safety assurance and demand for healthier diets.”

Next talk

Watch out for details of the 3rd Farmers Club Lecture, a special address from NFU Deputy President Minette Batters, at the open-to-all AGM luncheon at the Club on Tuesday 7th July.

The Farmers Club Lecture series is open to all members of the Farmers Club, and their guests, and aims to build on what its founder, William Shaw intended for the Club, that is, to be a place where the farming issues of the day are debated.